Monday, 29 November 2010

Derek Wall Coalition of Resistance

Rousing speech by Derek Wall at Saturdsy's COR. I just loved his reference to the 'emperors new clothes' and the bankers testicles hanging out:-)

The COR was a huge success with 1,500 people registered as attending. Well done to Romayne Phoenix and Joseph Healy who were instrumental in organising it and to the seventeen Greens who were elected to the national council.

Thanks to Chris Smith for the film.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

At the Hyde Park demo yesterday.

Londoners should shame the mayor into protecting home insulation scheme

The tragedy of 2,100 extra deaths of older Londoners should shame the Mayor into protecting his flagship home insulation programme.

Figures published yesterday showed that there were 2,100 excess deaths of people aged 65 and older in London last winter (1). The Office for National Statistics calculates excess winter deaths by comparing the number of deaths over the coldest, winter months with those that occur in non-winter months. The estimate is taken as a measure of how many people die due to cold, wintry conditions.

This level of excess deaths in London is disgraceful. There are measures that could be implemented to reduce this and these should be a priority. London's councils should work harder to encourage older people to claim the hundreds of millions of pounds of benefits they are owed as these could be used to keep people warm.
"The Mayor of London should also respond to pressure (2) from Green party members on the London Assembly to protect London's vital home insulation programme that would make it cheaper for people to keep their homes warm.

(1) See:
(2) See:

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Westminster Green Party banner flys again.

Saturday's demo: The first appearance in over ten years of the Westminster Green Party banner which had been lost for years. WCL Coordinator, Jules Lyle (centre) tracked it down in Hackney.

Also in the photo is Ken Burgess and Tristan Smith.

Tristan, Alan Wheatley and Jules.

Monday, 22 November 2010

‘Walk in The Green Park’ to save ancient parkland

Greens launch ‘Walk in The Green Park’ to save ancient parkland

Photo opportunity: Tues 23rd November, 1.00 – 1.15pm

Meeting Point: Proposed site of tree felling within the park

(Opposite the Hard Rock Café - where Picadilly meets Hyde Park Corner)

Green Party activists will join Westminster residents and conservationists from across the capital, for a ‘Walk in The Green Park’ on Tuesday in a last ditch attempt to save ancient treescape from destruction as proposals for a war memorial costing £5 million get the go ahead.
The groups will tie ribbons around the trees earmarked for felling near to Hyde Park Corner, in an appeal to the Bomber Command Association and its donors to reconsider their choice of site for the memorial.

Opponents say the plans will destroy biodiversity, cause the loss of ancient trees, mar the special character and tradition of the parkland, alter ground levels and forever change the centuries old physical historical boundary between town and country. (See attached before and after image of the site.)

Westminster resident and Green Party activist who is co-ordinating the event, Jules Lyle said:

"To damage the natural parkland which has been enjoyed by all for centuries when a suitable alternative site exists, defies all understanding.

“The United Nations named 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, yet London doesn't listen. We should be planting more trees and increasing and improving wildlife habitats not uprooting mature trees and hedges in an historic central London park.

”Other sites have been offered to Bomber Command which are much more suitable, such as The Embankment near the Battle of Britain memorial. I think hundreds of tonnes of Portland Stone should stay in Portland and they should leave our lovely park to nature as it was designed."

Questions are being asked as to how and why Westminster Council refrained from exercising a duty of care to protect the heritage parkland when policies had been established for this purpose, explicitly stating: “no more memorials in the area”.


For more information contact Jules Lyle on 07939 072534

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Mark Steel: Being honest is no longer official policy.

From yesterday’s Independent.

Now Phil Woolas has been banned from parliament for lying on his election leaflets, I suppose the Liberal Democrat MPs who vote for increasing university fees will all be chucked out as well.
Some of them insist they haven't been deceitful, because: "scrapping fees is still our official policy." And too often we're judged by what we do rather than by our official policy. If for example you take out a mortgage and don't make a single payment, you should be able to write to the bank, saying: "Although I'm 20,000 pounds in arrears, please be assured it remains my official policy to become King. So there's no need to worry."
Also, if the Lib Dems are still tied to this policy, they'll all soon be demonstrating against themselves. Nick Clegg will be interviewed holding a banner and yelling: "I voted for myself because I promised to scrap fees and now look what I've done. So I'm here to peacefully protest against myself, and I hope no one's distracted by extreme elements like Vince Cable who's getting us a bad name by throwing stones at himself."
Students should follow the Lib Dem example, and not pay back a penny of their loans, but write a letter reassuring the bank their official policy is to one day own Poland, at which point they'll throw in a shipyard as interest. And any of them arrested for last week's demonstration should say "Your honour, I assure you my official policy is to leave windows alone. Look, here's a clip of me on YouTube promising to never so much as look through one", and the charges would have to be dropped.
Several Lib Dem MPs suggest they're being treated unkindly, because Labour also introduced fees after promising they wouldn't. This is a valid point, except that once you're measuring your morals by the standards set by New Labour you might as well flee the country in disguise. They might as well say: "You complain about the necessary cuts in public spending, but how often do our critics complain about the dreadful regime of the Roman emperor Nero in the first century AD?"
In fact it's remarkable how easy a time they've had, because even by the grubby standards we're used to, this was lying on a spectacular scale. They didn't just gradually abandon a promise, in accordance with the politicians' fibbing handbook. They launched a pledge to scrap the fees, and their leader had himself filmed while signing it, and then slapped it across the internet. Four months later they supported trebling the thing they pledged to scrap.
For the next election Clegg will be filmed cutting his arm with a dagger and sealing a parchment in blood, kneeling in a black cloak and muttering; "By the ancient order of LibDeminium I pledge to thee that no fee shall, on any account imaginable in the cosmos, upon the sacred name of all my family in any circumstances in the universe, even in the event of my being violated and most graphically tortured, be raised by as much as a fraction of a penny." Then a week later he'd say: "Yes but we have to be realistic so we're putting them up to 20,000 pounds a year."
So there's no point in him saying anything anymore. From now on when a Lib Dem MP who supports the increase gets to speak in Parliament, or on the news, they might as well say: "There's no reason to believe a thing I say, so for my allotted time I shall perform some finger puppetry. Hello Hammy the hamster, where have you been today?"
Instead they insist the increases are fair, and won't put anyone off. And this is from a government that believes almost everything should be determined by the free market. Presumably then, they now follow a new sort of economics in which price makes no difference. "There's no reason why a price of ninety pounds will put people off buying a tin of plum tomatoes", they'll say, until they're all thrown out of parliament for lying, and join Woolas in having to apply for 10 jobs a day or have their benefits cut.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Front page coverage.................. Canterbury.
YourCanterbury features commens by me on subsidies to private school pensions (17th November 2010 - at

Monday, 15 November 2010

DATABASES meeting.

The NO2ID campaign is pleased to host speakers from ARCH and Genewatch who will shed some light on the issues.

Monday, 22 Nov, 7pm prompt start
Terri Dowty, ARCH - 'Children's Databases'
Helen Wallace, Genewatch - 'National DNA Database'

Bertrand Russell Room, Conway Hall;
25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
(Updates on
NB This is not a train strike day)

For more information, please ring 07976 414913.

Genewatch -

Saturday, 13 November 2010

The great animal rights betrayal

from to-day's Independent:
Government scraps protection for hens, game birds, pigs, cows, sheep – and circus animals
Labour's environment minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, said he was 'minded' to ban performing wild animals after research showed that 94 per cent of the public supported a ban
Millions of hens will have their beaks mutilated; game birds will remain in cages; pigs, sheep and cows in abattoirs will lose crucial protection from abuse; badgers will be culled and lions, tigers and other wild animals will continue to perform in the big top.
In a series of little-noticed moves, the Coalition has scrapped or stalled Labour initiatives to improve animal welfare some weeks before they were due to come into force.
The Agriculture minister James Paice, who part-owns a farm in Cambridgeshire, has been behind most of the moves – which have infuriated welfare groups. In the latest of a series of controversial decisions, Mr Paice this week delayed by five years a ban on beak mutilations of laying hens due to come into force in January.

See rest of article here:

Revealed: Lib Dems planned before election to abandon tuition fees pledge

I just love the bit about Danny Alexander writing about 'clear yellow water' - an accurate description of the Lib dems and their 'policies'

Thursday, 11 November 2010

My letter published in today's Southwark News.

It is no surprise that the News had three separate stories on housing last week. The coalition government’s housing benefit proposals and the Labour council’s planning proposals have serious implications for many ordinary Southwark residents and even for the future of London as a whole. Local families worrying about their future are not interested in hearing political parties squabbling about who is to blame. They need to know that local and national politicians have solutions. We have a housing crisis because we have not been building enough social housing. This is why the average price of a home has climbed to £400,000. When house prices are so out of line with the salaries most people actually earn it is no surprise that rents and ultimately housing benefit costs have escalated greatly. Long-term, more social housing has to be built if the housing crisis is to be solved. If government wants to reign in housing benefit costs in the short-term they should hit the root of the problem and control the rents that landlords charge rather than the benefits paid to the poorest.

Noel Lynch

Chair, London Green Party

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Green Party research reveals hidden millions spent subsidising public school pensions

A response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Green Party shows that millions of pounds of tax payers’ money is being spent subsidising the pensions of teachers at England’s most expensive public schools, including Eton, Harrow and Cheltenham.
An article published in today’s Guardian shows that eleven named institutions in the FOI response (including the schools attended by the Prime Minister, Chancellor, Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Secretary) have 1,639 members of staff in the scheme. The Green Party has calculated that the top 100 schools are looking at over £40 million in subsidy per annum.
As Chair of London Green Part, I initiated the request, and the Guardian quotes me:
“It’s scandalous that taxpayers are unknowingly paying towards the pensions of teachers at schools like Eton and Harrow. It will come as a surprise to a lot of people that these elite, private sector employers have access to the government’s Teachers’ Pension Scheme to the tune of over £40 million.
“It’s unfair that these schools are exempted from the risks of stock market fluctuations while other similar sized organisations must suffer the consequences of a volatile market.”
The Green Party believes the money should be ploughed into more urgent areas within the education budget such as building new local schools in deprived areas and employing more teachers to reduce class sizes.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The greatest comeback since Lazarus?

An interesting point for me in the U.S. elections was the election as California Governor of Jerry Brown, one of the heroes of my youth. Brown replaced Reagan as Governor and served until 1983. He fought against the oil industry, against capital punishment, appointed the first gay judge, supported environmental causes and Trade Unions and appointed more women and minorities to office than any other previous California governor. In 1977 he sponsored the "first-ever tax incentive for rooftop solar" among many environmental initiatives.

He was the youngest Californian governor and now the oldest. Just shows 'you can't keep a good man down' and a blow against ageism.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


02 November 2010
A DAY OF SHOCKING VIOLENCE AGAINST LONDON'S FIREFIGHTERS Vehicles driven at speed into three FBU pickets Two strikebreakers arrested Strikebreaking contractors refuse first aid equipment to the injured Yesterday, three members of the Fire Brigades Union were hit and hurt by speeding vehicles driven by strikebreakers.
First, a Croydon firefighter was hit by a speeding car driven by a non-union manager at Croydon fire station. FBU president Mick Shaw, who was there, described what happened.

"A fire engine returned from an incident and drove into the fire station, its crew refusing to wind down their windows and talk to the pickets. But at least it drove slowly, at the brigade maximum of five mph, so that the pickets could get out of the way before they were mown down.

"It was followed by a car driven by the officers, and as the pickets tried to talk to the driver of the car, it accelerated suddenly and one of the striking firefighters was thrown up and into the windscreen, then several feet in front of the car.

"We asked the AssetCo employees who had control of our fire station for the first aid kit and some blankets, but they would not give them to us despite the obviously serious nature of the injuries.

"An ambulance was called at once, and the ambulance crew asked for an air ambulance. Our member was not able to move during the 25 minutes between being hit and being taken away in the ambulance."

The LFB manager was arrested at the scene. Mr Shaw and general secretary Matt Wrack intend to visit the member (whose name cannot be given until his family consents) today, Tuesday. It is understood he has injuries to his spleen and spine.

Second, two hours after the strike, Dagenham firefighter Graham Beers held his hand up at the side of a road in Southwark, to signal to the crew of a fire engine being returned to Southwark Fire Station that they should stop and speak to him. "The fire engine swerved towards me and hit my hand" says Mr Beers, who suffered a sprained and badly bruised hand.

Third, a fire engine was deliberately driven into the FBU London representative Ian Leahair, at Southwark fire station. This happened more than two hours after the strike ended.

There was a huge police presence at Southwark, and FBU members who were there accepted with cheerful good humour being penned in across the road, away from the incoming fire engines. Just eight pickets were allowed.

Although the strike ended at six, the fire engines did not start coming until about 8 pm. When they did start coming, the permitted eight pickets, in the midst of dozens of police officers, stood in front and asked the drivers to stop while they spoke to them.
The first two fire engines stopped, and waited for the two minutes or so the police allowed the eight pickets to try to talk to them, without winding down their windows.

But the third didn't stop. It just kept coming. As the pickets fled before it, the great, heavy fire engine actually picked up speed, and hit Ian Leahair and then one of the police officers, before the police finally persuaded the driver to stop. By then, Ian Leahair's legs and half his body were underneath the fire engine and he was clearly in pain. If he had been standing an inch or so further left, his legs would have been crushed under the fire engine's wheels.

FBU pickets yelled at the driver to reverse, but he would not do so until instructed to do so by the police. The police officer, we understand, had a bruised leg. Ian Leahair has injured ribs. He was pulled out and helped to the side of the road.

The fire engine was deliberately driven at the pickets. There was no reason to do this. The driver cannot have felt in any way intimidated.
He could see at least 50 police officers who would have protected him, had any violence been offered, which it was not.

After that, the police handled the arrival of the rest of the fire engines very differently. They decided, with great fairness, that they were not going to stop the picketing because a driver had endangered the pickets. So police officers themselves stopped the fire engines, gave the pickets their couple of minutes, then cleared the way for the engines.

The police, in effect, began to protect the pickets from the strikebreakers. It was the police who ensured the right to lawful picketing.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said today: "This has been a day of shocking violence directed at London's firefighters.
"An incredible pattern seems to be emerging. It looks as though the private company hired to do our work has instructed its drivers to drive fast through picket lines. We ended the day in the extraordinary situation where the police had to protect striking firefighters from recklessly speeding vehicles, which were driven by those paid to break the strike.

"If our people had done a fraction of what they did, there would be inflammatory and self-righteous condemnation from the London Fire Brigade, and no doubt it would find something else from the personnel files to feed to its friends in right wing newspapers. But they have not even condemned what happened. Can it possibly be that they do not care about the danger in which their contractor has placed their LFB's own employees? Could they, incredibly, even be a party to decisions which have led to this? They have brought hired thugs into London who have driven around at speed with their faces hidden by balaclavas in an attempt to menace and intimidate our members. Tragically three of our members have been injured as a result. I wonder whether the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and the others who have spent the past week condemning the FBU for our industrial action will now condemn this violence against us."

Monday, 1 November 2010

Protest works. Just look at the proof

Inspiring article by Johann Hari in the Independent.
Johann Hari: Protest works. Just look at the proof

Yes, you can choose to do nothing. But you will be choosing to let yourself and your family and your country be ripped off

There is a ripple of rage spreading across Britain. It is clearer every day that the people of this country have been colossally scammed. The bankers who crashed the economy are richer and fatter than ever, on our cash. The Prime Minister who promised us before the election “we’re not talking about swingeing cuts” just imposed the worst cuts since the 1920s, condemning another million people to the dole queue. Yet the rage is matched by a flailing sense of impotence. We are furious, but we feel there is nothing we can do. There’s a mood that we have been stitched up by forces more powerful and devious than us, and all we can do is sit back and be shafted.

This mood is wrong. It doesn’t have to be this way – if enough of us act to stop it. To explain how, I want to start with a small scandal, a small response – and a big lesson from history.

In my column last week, I mentioned in passing something remarkable and almost unnoticed. For years now, Vodafone has been refusing to pay billions of pounds of taxes to the British people that are outstanding. The company – which has doubled its profits during this recession – engaged in all kinds of accounting twists and turns, but it was eventually ruled this refusal breached anti-tax avoidance rules. They looked set to pay a sum Private Eye calculates to be more than £6bn.

Then, suddenly, the exchequer – run by George Osborne – cancelled almost all of the outstanding tax bill, in a move a senior figure in Revenues and Customs says is “an unbelievable cave-in.” A few days after the decision, Osborne was promoting Vodafone on a tax-payer funded trip to India. He then appointed Andy Halford, the finance director of Vodafone, to the government’s Advisory Board on Business Tax Rates, apparently because he thinks this is a model of how the Tories think it should be done.

By contrast, the Indian government chose to pursue Vodafone through the courts for the billions in tax they have failed to pay there. Yes, the British state is less functional than the Indian state when it comes to collecting revenues from the wealthy. This is not an isolated incident. Richard Murphy, of Tax Research UK, calculates that UK corporations fail to pay a further £12bn a year in taxes they legally owe, while the rich avoid or evade up to £120bn.

Many people emailed me saying they were outraged that while they pay their fair share for running the country, Vodafone doesn’t pay theirs. One of them named Thom Costello decided he wanted to organize a protest, so he appealed on Twitter – and this Wednesday seventy enraged citizens shut down the flagship Vodafone store on Oxford Street in protest. “Vodafone won’t pay as they go,” said one banner. “Make Vodafone pay, not the poor,” said another.

The reaction from members of the public – who were handed leaflets explaining the situation – was startling. Again and again, people said “I’m so glad somebody is doing this” and “there needs to be much more of this.” Lots of them stopped to talk about how frightened they were about the cuts and for their own homes and jobs. The protest became the third most discussed topic in the country on Twitter, meaning millions of people now know about what Vodafone and the government have done.

You might ask – so what? What has been changed? To understand how and why protest like this can work, you need some concrete and proven examples from the past. Let’s start with the most hopeless and wildly idealistic cause – and see how it won. The first ever attempt to hold a Gay Pride rally in Trafalgar Square was in 1965. Two dozen people turned up – and they were mostly beaten by the police and arrested. Gay people were imprisoned for having sex, and even the most compassionate defense of gay people offered in public life was that they should be pitied for being mentally ill.

Imagine if you had stood in Trafalgar Square that day and told those two dozen brave men and women: “Forty-five years from now, they will stop the traffic in Central London for a Gay Pride parade on this very spot, and it will be attended by hundreds of thousands of people. There will be married gay couples, and representatives of every political party, and openly gay soldiers and government ministers and huge numbers of straight supporters – and it will be the homophobes who are regarded as freaks.” It would have seemed like a preposterous statement of science fiction. But it happened. It happened in one lifetime. Why? Not because the people in power spontaneously realized that millennia of persecuting gay people had been wrong, but because determined ordinary citizens banded together and demanded justice.

If that cause can be achieved, through persistent democratic pressure, anything can. But let’s look at a group of protesters who thought they had failed. The protests within the United States against the Vietnam War couldn’t prevent it killing three million Vietnamese and 80,000 Americans. But even in the years it was “failing”, it was achieving more than the protestors could possibly have known. In 1966, the specialists at the Pentagon went to US President Lyndon Johnson – a thug prone to threatening to “crush” entire elected governments – with a plan to end the Vietnam War: nuke the country. They “proved”, using their computer modeling, that a nuclear attack would “save lives.”

It was a plan that might well have appealed to him. But Johnson pointed out the window, towards the hoardes of protesters, and said: “I have one more problem for your computer. Will you feed into it how long it will take 500,000 angry Americans to climb the White House wall out there and lynch their President?” He knew that there would be a cost – in protest and democratic revolt – that made that cruelty too great. In 1970, the same plan was presented to Richard Nixon – and we now know from the declassified documents that the biggest protests ever against the war made him decide he couldn’t do it. Those protesters went home from those protests believing they had failed – but they had succeeded in preventing a nuclear war. They thought they were impotent, just as so many of us do – but they really had power beyond their dreams to stop a nightmare.

Protest raises the political price for governments making bad decisions. It stopped LBJ and Nixon making the most catastrophic decision of all. The same principle can apply to the Conservative desire to kneecap the welfare state while handing out massive baubles to their rich friends. The next time George Osborne has to decide whether to cancel the tax bill of a super-rich corporation and make us all pick up the tab, he will know there is a price. People will find out, and they will be angry. The more protests there are, the higher the price. If enough of us demand it, we can make the rich pay their share for the running of our country, rather than the poor and the middle – to name just one urgent cause that deserves protest.

And protest can have an invisible ripple-effect that lasts for generations. A small group of women from Iowa lost their sons early in the Vietnam war, and they decided to set up an organization of mothers opposing the assault on the country. They called a protest of all mothers of serving soldiers outside the White House – and six turned up in the snow. Even though later in the war they became nationally important voices, they always remembered that protest as an embarrassment and a humiliation.

Until, that is, one day in the 1990s, one of them read the autobiography of Benjamin Spock, the much-loved and trusted celebrity doctor, who was the Oprah of his day. When he came out against the war in 1968, it was a major turning point in American public opinion. And he explained why he did it. One day, he had been called to a meeting at the White House to be told how well the war in Vietnam was going, and he saw six women standing in the snow with placards, alone, chanting. It troubled his conscience and his dreams for years. If these women were brave enough to protest, he asked himself, why aren’t I? It was because of them that he could eventually find the courage to take his stand – and that in turn changed the minds of millions, and ended the war sooner. An event that they thought was a humiliation actually turned the course of history.

You don’t know what the amazing ripple-effect of your protest will be – but wouldn’t Britain be a better place if it replaced the ripple of impotent anger so many of us are feeling? Yes, you can sit back and let yourself be ripped off by the bankers and the corporations and their political lackeys if you want. But it’s an indulgent fiction to believe that is all you can do. You can act in your own self-defence. As Margaret Mead, the great democratic campaigner, said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”